Unforgettable Things to do in Petersburg Alaska
Last Updated on March 23, 2023
Petersburg is a small town and a large commercial fishing hub in a stunning location on Mitkof Island in Southeast Alaska. Large cruise ships do not come here and it’s off the beaten track for most visitors traveling on their own. This makes it a wonderful place to experience authentic Alaskan culture amid stunning natural beauty with far fewer fellow travelers that larger towns along the Inside Passage. Petersburg is the homeland of the Tlingit People and the Petersburg Indian Association, a federally recognized tribe is located here. Both Norwegian and Tlingit culture make up Petersburg today.
Related: What to pack for Alaska, How to visit Alaska without a car
- How to get to Petersburg
- When is the best time to visit?
- How much time should I spend?
- Where can I stay?
- Where should I eat?
- Wander around Little Norway
- Harbors and Fishing Fleet
- Explore Tidepools
- Sandy Beach Park
- Drive out the road
- LeConte Glacier
- Whale watching
- Go Fishing
- Forest Service Cabins
How to get to Petersburg
Petersburg, Alaska is located on Mitkof Island and like many towns in Southeast Alaska (including Juneau the state capitol!) you have to take a boat or plane to get there.
For visitors, the best way to get to Petersburg is to fly there or take the Alaska Ferry.
You can fly to Petersburg on Alaska Airlines, which serves Petersburg with one jet flight per day going north (from Seattle, Ketchikan and Wrangell) and one going south (from Juneau). If that flight schedule isn’t ideal, you can also fly into Petersburg on a smaller plane from Ketchikan, Juneau or Wrangell.
If you’re taking the ferry, you can either fly to Ketchikan or Juneau and then take the ferry, or you can take the ferry all the way from Bellingham in Washington. Check the schedule carefully because ferry service isn’t daily and at times may only be once a week. From Ketchikan to Petersburg takes about 10 hours including a stop in Wrangell, from Juneau to Petersburg takes about 8 hours. The trip between Wrangell and Petersburg on the ferry is my favorite part of the entire ferry route on the whole inside passage!
When is the best time of year to visit Petersburg?
Petersburg is best to visit in the summer months. In the off season, many businesses and lodging are closed and no tours or trips are available.
Late May and early June are the driest and sunniest time of the year. However, it’s important to note that Petersburg is a very rainy place and you should plan on seeing some rain no matter what time you visit. The most things are open and the most tours and trips available in June, July and early August. Early June is the ideal time to visit.
How much time should I spend in Petersburg?
Petersburg is too far from bigger ports for a day trip in my opinion, and there are so many fun things to do you want to give yourself at least a couple days. Petersburg can be a wonderful stand alone weekend trip, or you could combine it with a trip to Wrangell or Ketchikan to take in even more of Southeast Alaska. In a couple of days, you’ll have the chance to explore town and take a boat tour which is just about perfect. With more time, you can add in a fishing trip (you could even squeeze that in two days if you don’t mind being busy) or more hikes and explorations out the road.
Where can I stay in Petersburg?
There are two hotels in town in Petersburg, the Tides Inn and Scandia House. The Beachcomber is a fun place to stay in a historic cannery about three miles from town. It’s older but also spotlessly clean, has a great view and is very affordable.
There are also several Airbnbs in Petersburg as well as out the road. Pay attention to where you are booking your stay and think about if you want to be in town and walk to everything or if you want to be out a bit, which will require a rental car, using taxis or a bike to get around.
Where should I eat in Petersburg?
Petersburg is a small town and it’s good to check and confirm if a restaurant will be open and it’s hours before you go. Many places are closed on Sunday so pay attention to the calendar if you’ll be visiting over a weekend, especially early or late in the season.
The Salty Pantry is beloved by locals with possibly the best baked goods on the planet. Seriously. Open for breakfast and lunch.
Coastal Cold Storage doubles as a seafood wholesaler and favorite breakfast spot. Don’t miss the breakfast burrito.
The restaurant at the Beachcomber is worth the taxi ride from town and required if you are staying at the Beachcomber. Really good food and a fun atmosphere with the option to sit outside on the large covered deck with propane fire tables! Perfect sunset location.
Delicious pizza is available at Papa Bear’s!
The best things to do in Petersburg
Wander around Little Norway
Petersburg has a lively Norwegian culture given the multigenerational presence of commercial fishermen from Norway and their descendants. You’ll see this most prominently at the Sons of Norway Hall and in many of the shops around town.
Petersburg’s Tlingit heritage and culture are also prominent downtown, you can’t miss the impressive totem poles in Totem Park by the forest service office.
Don’t miss the Visitor Center, especially if you’re looking for ideas for hiking and exploring the area around Petersburg, and the Claussen Museum to learn about the history of Petersburg.
Visit Sing Lee Alley Books for a wonderful independent bookstore experience.
You’ll also find the Salty Pantry and Coastal Cold Storage (mentioned above) downtown among the Norwegian flags, totem poles and fish processors.
Explore the Harbors and see the fishing fleet
Petersburg has multiple boat harbors that are busy with Petersburg’s bustling fishing fleet as well as tour boats and charter boats. Like all Southeast Alaska towns, it’s fun to walk around the harbor and check out the variety of boats coming and going.
Explore the tidepools at Eagle’s Roost Park
Located walking distance from downtown, Eagle’s Roost Park is a great place to look for eagles and watch Petersburg’s many fishing vessels come and go. Save this visit for low tide when you can explore the rocky tidepools along the shore for fascinating intertidal creatures.
Beachcombing at Sandy Beach Park
Sandy Beach Park is a must see at low tide! This is another good place for tidepooling as well as just exploring the beach with an incredible view across the water. You can walk here from downtown, it’s about two flat miles mostly on sidewalks or on trail, passing the airport to the other side of Mitkof Island. You can also take a taxi there (or back) if you run out of energy to walk back.
This beautiful beach also has remnants of ancient petroglyphs and fish traps from at least 2000 years ago that you can see at low tide.
Some of Petersburg’s hikes are further out the road, that you can get to either by taxi or driving. If you want to stay closer to town, a couple of hikes to check out are:
The Raven’s Roost trail is a challenging 8 mile round trip hike with 1800 feet of elevation gain. It starts across the street from Sandy Beach and climbs up to a wonderful view and the Raven’s Roost forest service cabin.
This trail is tough and the weather is often chilly, windy and wet. It’s imperative to bring everything you need with you for a hike and be self sufficient. Make sure you have extra water, food and layers in particular!
City Creek Trail
The City Creek Trail also begins by Sandy Beach and offers a mellow, short and flat forest walk near the beach that is beautiful and perfect for someone who doesn’t want to do much climbing.
Hungry Point Trail
This short and mostly flat trail starts by the ballfields and goes over to the beach between Sandy Beach and Petersburg. It’s a bit less than a mile, but you can make it longer by walking down to Sandy Beach and then back across the trail by the airport to town.
Like much of Southeast Alaska, Petersburg offers incredible kayaking opportunities. From rivers and estuaries to kayaking among whales and by waterfalls, you can choose almost any kayak adventure here you can imagine.
There are several places to rent kayaks, or you can take a tour with someone else figuring out where to go and making sure you have all the equipment you need.
Drive out the Road
Like many other Southeast Alaska towns, although you cannot drive to Petersburg you can drive a little over 30 miles on the Mitkof Highway if you’d like to explore the island a bit more. You’ll need access to a car for this, but if you can pull that off (try renting one from Scandia House but reserve ahead!) you can explore even more hiking trails and viewpoints around Mitkof Island.
Take a boat to Spectacular LeConte Glacier
LeConte Glacier is one of the most fantastic must see places in Alaska! It’s so amazing I have a whole additional post just about how to visit it.
Travel through waters among whales and icebergs from the nearby glacier, keeping your eyes out for bears and waterfalls on shore. If you’re lucky you might be able to get all the way to the face of the furthest south tidewater glacier in the northern hemisphere. Even if the icebergs block your way, it will still be an unforgettable experience. I have traveled on Seek Alaska tours and highly recommend them for this and other boat adventures in Petersburg! A comfortable boat, a deeply experienced fourth generation Petersburg Captain and spectacular scenery make this something you don’t want to miss.
Look for whales in Frederick Sound
Petersburg is a fantastic place to go whalewatching! The north end of Frederick Sound is one of the best places in North America to see Humpback whales, especially in June and July. Earlier and later in the season you also have an excellent chance of seeing resident Orca whales.
In addition to whales, you are likely to see seals and sea lions and possibly bears along the shore. I highly recommend Seek Alaska Tours for whale watching as well!
Petersburg is a town built on fishing, so if there was ever an appropriate place to try fishing for yourself, this is it! You can try your hand at fishing on your own, or go on a fishing charter. Fishing charters are perfect for travelers because you can try your hand at fishing even if you’ve never done it before and your captain and crew will teach you what you need to know, provide the gear you need, find the best places for fishing and guide you every step of the way.
If you are ready for an even bigger adventure and what to experience first hand what it’s like to be a commercial fisherperson, while having fun and exploring Southeast Alaska with a local, contact Seek Alaska for their unique trips up to a week where you get to try out being crew and eating delicious fresh caught seafood everyday!
Forest Service Cabins
One of the awesome things about Tongass National Forest is the large number of public use cabins that are available for rent all over Southeast Alaska! The Petersburg Ranger District has 19 public use cabins that are available to rent. Making use of a public use cabin is one of my strategies for saving money on a trip to Alaska!
The cabins are available only by boat or plane. You can work with one of the tour operators in Petersburg to arrange a water taxi or float plane for drop off and pick up at remote cabins.